Women’s amateur golf will be in the spotlight this week as the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur tees off, with the first two rounds at Champions Retreat on Wednesday and Thursday and the final 18 on Saturday played on the same course as the Masters Tournament.
Marquee championships are nothing new for female non-professionals. Here are three things to know about women’s amateur golf.
Women’s Amateur Championships Began in the 19th Century
The Ladies Golf Union (now merged into The R&A) held its inaugural Ladies British Open Amateur Championship in 1893 at Royal Lytham and St Annes, with Lady Margaret Scott claiming the title.
Two years later, the U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship signified the start of women’s competitive golf in America. It was one of the USGA’s first three championships, debuting in 1895 along with the U.S. Amateur and the U.S. Open.
Lucy Barnes Brown won the first staging of the event by two strokes over Nellie Sargent at Meadow Brook Club in Hempstead, N.Y. The championship adopted the match-play format in 1896 and Beatrix Hoyt went on to win three consecutive crowns. Glenna Collett Vare holds the record with six victories between 1922 and 1935.
From 1953 to 1963, the Women’s Amateur was exclusively a match-play competition, adding 36-hole stroke play qualifying prior to match play from 1964 to 1972, before returning to 18-hole qualifying from 1973 to 1979. In 1980, the championship went back to 36-hole qualifying and has remained so ever since, with Kristen Gillman defeating Jiwon Jeon, 7 and 6, last year for her second title.
U.S. Women’s Amateur Champs Have Enjoyed Professional Success
Five-time U.S. Women’s Amateur champion JoAnne Gunderson Carner went on to add two U.S. Women’s Open titles to her resume in 1971 and 1976. She was also named LPGA Tour Player of the Year in 1974, 1981 and 1982, the same year she was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame. Carner also won the U.S. Girls’ Junior in 1956, giving her eight USGA titles, the most by a female.
Other women who went on to professional success after lifting the Robert Cox Trophy include Beth Daniel, Juli Inkster, Danielle Kang, Lydia Ko, Morgan Pressel, Louise Suggs and Babe Didrikson Zaharias.
The USGA Holds Five Annual Women’s Amateur Championships
The U.S. Women’s Amateur is just one of five championships the USGA holds every year for non-professional female golfers. The U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball is for two-player teams with each individual holding a handicap of 14.4 or better, the U.S. Girls Junior is open to players under 19 with a handicap that does not exceed 9.4, the U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur is for those 50 and older with a handicap of 14.4 or better and the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur is open to females at least 25 years old with a handicap that does not exceed 9.4.
For more information on applying to play in one of these championships, click here.
Jordan Schwartz is the senior manager of social media for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.